Orem inauguration 14

Orem Mayor Richard Brunst speaks after taking the oath of office during the inauguration ceremony at the SCERA Center for the Arts on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Orem.

The Orem City Council disclosed Thursday that it is involved in an ongoing investigation into Mayor Richard Brunst concerning reported unauthorized withdrawals from his city retirement account.

A statement released by the Orem City Council said as early as 2017, Brunst altered dates, made unauthorized withdrawals from his retirement account, and submitted multiple reimbursement requests for the same reimbursement. The city has launched a full investigation, which is being conducted by outside sources.

“In the regular course of business, the City discovered irregularities in forms used by Mayor Brunst to make unauthorized withdrawals from his city retirement account,” the statement said. “The irregularities include the alteration of dates associated with his own signature and the signatures of city employees, the submission of the same signed forms for multiple reimbursement requests, and the submission of requests for reimbursement more frequently than the retirement plan permits. These irregularities were reported to the City Council. The City Council has reviewed the transactions and the attendant facts and is in the process of determining the appropriate course of action.”

Steven Downs, city spokesman, said the case is not only being investigated by attorneys but it is being investigated by law enforcement and is expected to be referred to the Utah County Attorney’s Office.

“We don’t know when that investigation will be completed,” Downs said.

Brunst released a statement explaining the situation and apologizing for what has reportedly transpired. The entire statement is attached to this story online.

In his statement Brunst explains, “Several months ago, Orem city’s human resources department brought to the attention of city management several irregularities in regards to 401K pension withdrawal forms for myself. These included changing dates on four forms, resubmitting the same form numerous times, and lastly exceeding the city limit on how many withdrawals from a personal pension account can be accessed per year. ... I recognized and admitted that I had made mistakes on how I had handled the requests for distributions from my own account of my own personal money.

“It is wrong to change the date on another person’s signature. I also resubmitted copies of original forms for later dates with nothing changed. Please note that the plan administrator sent a confirming acceptance of all of these forms with the exception of three of them. Likewise, no information came back from the plan administrator on my exceeding the amount of withdrawals allowed by the Orem plan.”

City Councilman Sam Lentz said he believes the mayor has an opportunity to be transparent with the public in his reported misdealings.

“I believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Councilman Sam Lentz. “As I have in past cases, with past conduct, I’ve asked him to hold himself accountable.”

Lentz said he doesn’t know how long the investigation may take.

Brent Sumner, mayor pro tem and city councilman, said two closed door meetings have been held on the issue, on May 29 and July 23.

According to Sumner, it was at the May 29 meeting the council decided to initiate an investigation.

“There is an investigation, I can’t say more than that,” Sumner said. “I honor the closed door session. Everything in closed door is confidential and should not be shared.”

Sumner said that the mayor’s potential resignation or any other disciplinary action would be addressed at a later time after the investigation is complete.

“Hopefully this will be done quickly,” Sumner said. “We’ve got great momentum going in this city and we need to get back to the work of the city.”

Brunst said in his apology statement that the county attorney will be involved to determine if charges will be filed, but he personally believes his actions were not a crime but a mistake.

“This action will be referred to our city police department to then be handled by the county attorney to see if a crime has been committed in this action. For a crime to occur the form has to be a significant legal document, which a request form is not, and criminal intent has to be proved. ... I do not believe that this is a crime but rather a mistake on my part,” Brunst said. “I had no intent other than to expedite the submission of my own withdrawal request forms for my own money. It is a mistake of convenience on my part.”

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.

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